The Black Hills woman who led the fight to make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota has won some national recognition. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has named Shari Crouch Kosel one of America's Top Ten Animal Defenders:

Shari Crouch Kosel and friend (photo from ALDF)

Shari Crouch Kosel and friend (photo from ALDF)

Shari Crouch Kosel is the co-founder and chair of South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (SDFACT). In 2008, Shari’s neighbor’s dog was tortured and murdered, which inspired Shari to begin a crusade for a felony penalty for animal cruelty at the state level. Years of letter writing, media outreach, and contacting legislators and law enforcement led to connections with advocates Sara Parker, Heidi Hunter, and Darci Adams. Together, they formed SDFACT, a small, grassroots nonprofit, whose sole mission was to pass felony-level penalties for animal cruelty.

In 2013, SDFACT worked with the Senate Agriculture Committee, the state veterinarian, and other agricultural entities. Months of meetings and passionate discussions in 2014 led to an agreement: a felony bill was born. Ultimately, it gained wide support from all entities in the state. In large part thanks to Shari’s dedication and hard work, in 2014 South Dakota became the 50th and final state to make malicious animal cruelty a felony [link added; Animal Legal Defense Fund, profile of Shari Kosel, downloaded 2015.02.25].

Kosel is not out there advocating for voting rights for dogs. Neither are the other members of ALDF's Top Ten Animal Defenders. Far from fringe activists, the majority of the honorees are law enforcement officials, good public officials out there arresting and prosecuting animal abusers whose cruelty toward weaker four-leggeds demonstrates dangerous anti-social inclinations.

Congratulations, Shari! Keep up the good work!

6 comments

I guess Pat Powers just can't get over using false fears about animal rights activists as a prod for his political agenda. In glorious Newspeak, Powers seeks support for a ban on paid petition circulators by saying that animal rights groups like the Right-dreaded HSUS are going to come threaten South Dakota agriculture with ballot measures. "They were active in pushing to make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota," Powers says, "and now that they’ve got their foot in the door, it’s not going to end there."

Powers is lying... again. Follow his link on the discussion of making animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota. It opens a statement from the Human Society of the United States which cheers the passage of 2014's Senate Bill 46, the legislation that ended South Dakota's status as the only state not treating animal cruelty as a felony. HSUS says they "strongly supported" SB 46. They don't say they were "active" in "pushing" the bill, as Powers alleges. They never testified in favor of it. Recall who did support SB 46:

Presented by Dustin Oedenkoven, State Veterinarian
Proponents:

  • Trudy Wastweet, Dept of Agriculture
  • Lorin Pankratz, SD Pork Producers & SD Soybean Association
  • Michael Held, SD Farm Bureau
  • Paul Dennert, Farmers Union
  • Gary Sandborn, self, Madison
  • Margo Northrup, SD Livestock Markets
  • Brenda Forman, SD Association of Cooperatives, SD Cattlemen's Association, SD Ag Unity, SD Dairy Production & SD Stockgrowers
  • Shari Kosel, SD FACT, Lead [Senate Agriculture and Natural resources Committee, minutes, 2014.02.11]

SB 46 got and needed no push from the HSUS. It had the support of major state agencies and ag organizations. It passed the Republican Senate unanimously and the House easily. The Big Ag and Republicans supported was tougher than the 2013 animal-cruelty legislation proposed by SD FACT , a South Dakota, non-HSUS group. Our animal cruelty felony law is not a sign that we need to gird ourselves for an attack by out-state animal rights activists. If anything, it's a sign that even Republicans and Big Ag recognize that Pat Powers is full of crap.

When SD FACT launched its push for animal-cruelty laws in South Dakota, Powers rolled in his filthy falsehood with all the glee of a baby discovering the contents of its diaper. Why would Powers keep rolling in this lie? I'll have the analysis on the true political objective of his fear-mongering coming up in a separate post!

7 comments

South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together has released its "PAWSative" scorecard for the South Dakota Legislature. SD FACT scores legislators on critter-comity based on votes on four bills:

  1. Support for Senate Bill 46, the bill SD FACT championed to make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota as it is in every other state in the Union.
  2. Support for Senate Bill 75, the ban on pit bull bans.
  3. Opposition to Senate Bill 76, which would have expanded current law to allow people to kill mountain lions when their safety is threatened, not just their lives.
  4. Opposition to House Bill 1068, which would have allowed Rep. Betty Olson to hunt mountain lions across the state with more than one dog.

Seven Senators and twelve Representatives score 100% PAWSative:

  • Sen. Angie Buhl O'Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls)
  • Sen. R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls)
  • Sen. Jean Hunhoff (R-18/Yankton)
  • Sen. Mark Kirkeby (R-35/Rapid City)
  • Sen. Deb Peters (R-9/Hartford)
  • Sen. Deb Soholt (R-14/Sioux Falls)
  • Sen. Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Dan Dryden (R-34/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Christine Erickson (R-11/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Marc Feinstein (D-14/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Peggy Gibson (R-22/Huron)
  • Rep. Timothy Johns (R-31/Spearfish)
  • Rep. David Lust (R-34/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Scott Parsley (D-9/Madison)
  • Rep. Dean Schrempp (D-28A/Lantry)
  • Rep. Karen Soli (D-15/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown)
  • Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City)
  • Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton)

Only two departing Representatives, Republicans Manny Steele (12/Sioux Falls) and Don Kopp (35/Rapid City), are in doghouse with zeroes. Five Senators and twenty Representatives scored just 25%:

  • Sen. Jason Frerichs (D-1/Wilmot)
  • Sen. Tom Jones (D-17/Viborg)
  • Sen. Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen)
  • Sen. Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center)
  • Sen. Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell)
  • Rep. David Anderson (R-16/Hudson)
  • Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton)
  • Rep. Gary Cammack (R-29/Union Center)
  • Rep. Scott Craig (R-33/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Brian Gosch (R/32-Rapid City)
  • Rep. Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark)
  • Rep. Jenna Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Kris Langer (R-25/Dell Rapids)
  • Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-6/Tea)
  • Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle)
  • Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-7/Brookings)
  • Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton)
  • Rep. Betty Olson (R-28B/Prairie City)
  • Rep. Herman Otten (R-6/Tea)
  • Rep. Lee Qualm (R-21/Platte)
  • Rep. Nancy Rasmussen (R-17/Hurley)
  • Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs)
  • Rep. Jim Stalzer (R-11/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Dick Werner (R-22/Huron)

There's certainly more Democratic flavor in the higher rankings and more arch-conservative flavor down low. But Senate Minority Leader Frerichs is among the low scorers. Among the top dogs, we have House Majority Leader Lust and other prominent Republicans.

I mention this partisan mix because Republican squawkers, Big Ag, and some of the press have misportrayed SD FACT as "out-of-state greenies" working for the vilified HSUS. But SD FACT's legislative agenda apparently is not so foreign or radical that it can't find support from South Dakotans of both parties in Pierre.

4 comments

It had to be a grim Fourth of July for Pat Powers and his friends. He lost his Bosworth-boosting freedom, his texting-while-driving freedom, and his animal-beating freedom.

Among the new laws enacted on Tuesday was South Dakota's overdue animal cruelty law. Animal cruelty, defined as "to intentionally, willfully, and maliciously inflict gross physical abuse on an animal that causes prolonged pain, that causes serious physical injury, or that results in the death of the animal," is now a felony, as it was in every other state before South Dakota finally got over its amnesiac paranoia and lies about animal activists.

But to keep Powers and his paranoid friends on their toes, South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together, the group that led the fight for South Dakota to bring up the rear on animal cruelty, has reorganized as a political action committee. Noting that local shelters and other animal groups can't endorse or financially support candidates due to their non-profit status, SD FACT plans to help critters and their friends in Pierre by...

  • Tracking the issues that affect animals
  • Surveying South Dakota candidates for elected office
  • Prioritizing and developing positions on proposed legislation
  • Meeting with South Dakota elected officials
  • Organizing grassroots legislative networks through a network of volunteer Community Coordinators
  • Mobilizing SD FACT members to communicate with legislators
  • Publishing an annual SD Humane Scorecard on incumbents’ voting records
  • Keeping our members informed through periodic updates
  • Educating South Dakota citizens and their elected representatives on how the choices we make through our the legislature impact the humane treatment of animals
  • Utilizing news and social media to promote animal welfare issues in South Dakota

[SD FACT, mission statement, downloaded 2014.07.05]

At the very least, SD FACT will help keep the Legislature honest and fight efforts to water down the hard-won protections of this year's Senate Bill 46. But they'll also be watching for gaps in current law and new protections South Dakota should offer to its furred and feathered friends.

p.s.—Ironic Dessert: SD FACT's secretary and media relations coordinator is named Heidi Hunter.

2 comments

Governor Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 46 into law Friday, finally making animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota. And who are all those evil "greenies from out of state" smiling with him as they impose their nefarious critter-worshipping, farm-killing will on real South Dakotans?

Governor Dennis Daugaard makes animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota, 2014.03.14

Governor Dennis Daugaard makes animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota, 2014.03.14

From left to right:

  1. Jeremiah M. Murphy, SD Stockgrowers Association
  2. Sen. Ernie Otten, R-6/Tea
  3. Mike Traxinger, SD Farmers Union
  4. Rep. Gary Cammack, R-29/Union Center
  5. Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-29/Union Center
  6. Rep. Mary Duvall, R-24/Pierre
  7. Dr. Dustin Oedekoven, SD State Veterinarian
  8. Governor Daugaard
  9. Lorin Pankratz, SD Pork Producers
  10. Brenda Forman, SD Ag Unity;
  11. Rep. Anne Hajek, R-14/Sioux Falls;
  12. Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-1/Wilmot;
  13. Shari Crouch Kosel, SD FACT;
  14. Nathan Sanderson, Policy Advisor – SD Governor’s Office;
  15. Jodie Anderson, SD Cattlemen’s Association.

Gee, those smiles all look pretty genuine to me. I don't see any forced toothiness, struggling to hide the angst of lying or caving to the pressure of the HSUS or trying to figure out how they'll explain themselves to all the unhappy farmers and ranchers who supposedly oppose this bill.

Notice the flip-flop of Senator Rhoden, who tried to raise search-and-seizure alarms about Senate Bill 46 before remembering that he had voted for the Fourth Amendment infringement eight years ago he was complaining about on his 2014 U.S. Senate campaign trail. Senator Rhoden's still a little embarrassed, as demonstrated by his trying to hide behind Rep. Duvall.

Notice the only Democrat in the room celebrating this liberal legislation is Senator Frerichs. Rhoden and the other four legislators crowding around the table are Republicans. I look forward to the Republican spin machine campaigning against these "damned fool" HSUS-cavers... or admitting it was wrong all along to defend South Dakota's previously inadequate animal cruelty laws and to spread lies about the good South Dakotans campaigning for good laws.

3 comments

South Dakota is on its way to joining the rest of civilized America and punishing animal cruelty as a felony. Senate Bill 46 passed House Judiciary Monday and the full House Tuesday, though a bit more bumpily than it did in its unanimous cruise through the Senate.

Senate Bill 46 is tougher than the legislation brought last year by South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together. But since SDFACT had a good talk with South Dakota's ag lobby and got everyone to realize we're all on the same page, the ag lobby and most of the Legislature got behind this bill.

Passing the bill required excluding the Humane Society of the United States from the summer negotiations over South Dakota's bill, said South Dakota pork and soybean lobbyist Lorin Pankratz in his testimony to House Judiciary Monday. The HSUS, as we all know, is plotting to take over the country, and even talking to seuch nefarious characters would make South Dakotans break out in hives and elect a poodle governor. Stockgrowers' lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy emphasized that "the people in this room"—the state veterinarian, the stockgrowers, the pork producers, all the big ag groups—wrote this bill, not just to color in the map and end South Dakota's status as the only state treating animal cruelty as a misdemeanor, but to make things better in South Dakota for animals and for agriculture.

Shari Kosel, the gal who spearheaded bringing animal cruelty to the Legislature's attention last year, testified concisely that SB 46 is collaboration and compromise in the best interest of South Dakota.

But some people just won't give up on HSUS hysteria. Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle), who called herself the "Lone Ranger" in House Judiciary against the bill, said all of the preceding testimony on SB 46's South Dakota roots was "not factual." She said SB 46 was a problem caused by an organization that has vowed to eliminate animal agriculture. She said SB 46 arose from fear that HSUS would wage war on animal cruelty by ballot initiative. She said SB 46 is bad because HSUS shut down horse slaughter plants. I won't even try to explain the logic, because there is none.

Rep. May also asserted that all of the ag folks she talks to are against SB 46, even though all of the ag folks in the room had just gotten done testifying in favor of SB 46. She essentially dismissed the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union, the Stockgrowers Association, and other major ag groups as elitist special interests who don't represent common folks. Boy, I'd like to hear Rep. May repeat that line on the campaign trail!

Rep. Charlie Hoffman (R-23/Eureka) rebutted Rep. May directly in committee discussion, saying SB 46 came entirely from South Dakotans, unlike a previous animal cruelty bill that was copied almost verbatim from an HSUS bill from Oregon. Rep. Anne Hajek (R-14/Sioux Falls) told people to look past the hype and read the bill. She slyly noted that SB 46 includes language that protects Rep. Olson's right to "shoot a mountain lion any time she wants to protect herself." Rep. Peggy Gibson (D-22/Huron) also corrected Rep. May's false fear that individuals convicted under SB 46 would lose their right to vote; she noted that once a convict has finished prison time and/or probation, that felon can regain the right to vote.

Committee Chairman Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City) complained that SB 46 costs too much. Evidently, $10,751 a year is too much to spend to more vigorously prosecute and punish the sociopaths who torture animals. Rep. Gosch also complained that "gross physical abuse," "prolonged pain," and "serious physical injury" are not clearly defined and cast one of only two votes against SB 46 in committee (the other came from his faithful lieutenant Rep. Justin Cronin, R-23/Gettysburg).

In the full House, you bet your boots that Rep. Betty Olson (R-29/Prairie City) voted against SB 46. Fourteen other legislators trembling before figments of their imagination joined her in the nay column Tuesday. SB 46 passed 54–15 and goes to Governor Dennis Daugaard for his signature.

6 comments

The Pierre Capital Journal falls in with animal rights activists (and Big Ag, and the state vet, and the entire South Dakota Senate...) and says it's about time South Dakota pass Senate Bill 46 and make animal cruelty a felony:

South Dakota is poised to be the last state to pass such a law, if we do it – we’ve rejected such legislation in the past.

Think about that – we are probably one of the states that is most dependent on animals for our livelihood, yet we have had a problem over the years working out legislation that would stiffen the penalties for animal cruelty. Let’s take a lesson here from the rest of the country. This is about ordinary human decency.

We hope again that the members of the state House of Representatives agree with their Senate colleagues and pass Senate Bill 46 [editorial, "Thumbs up to Two Pieces of Good Legislation," Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.02.16].
Animal cruelty legislation isn't some evil plot from outsiders to impose their liberal critter-lovin' worldview on us. Making animal cruelty a felony is an expression of South Dakota values, of decency and basic respect for the creatures that keep South Dakotans happy, healthy, and, in many cases, wealthy.

3 comments

Senate Bill 46, this year's animal cruelty bill, is cruising through the Legislature. Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources passed it unanimously on Tuesday; the full Senate gave SB 46 the same favor on Thursday. False fears of evil out-state animal activists waging tyranny against our ranchers have disappeared. Senator Larry Rhoden threw some baloney forward about SB 46 permitting warrantless searches and seizures by non-governmental officials, but his two ayes (one in committee, one in the Senate) for SB 46 indicate he has taken the memo that animal authorities can already act without warrants thanks to legislation Rhoden himself backed in 2006.

I don't want to alienate good neighbors for changing their minds and supporting sensible legislation. But I can't help pointing out that last year, when South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together brought forward a more limited bill on making cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses a felony, state vet Dustin Oedekoven, SD Farm Bureau lobbyist Mike Held, SD Farmers Union lobbyist Mike Traxinger, Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones, and Gary Sanborn of the South Dakota Pet Breeders Association all testified in successful opposition to the large but lonely cadre of animal protection activist fighting for the bill. This year, Oedekoven, Held, Sanborn, the Farmers Union, and the Ag Department all testified in favor of a much tougher animal cruelty bill.

In a similar flip-flop, last year, Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources chair Shantel Krebs, Meade County rancher and Senator Larry Rhoden, and five of their colleagues voted against making cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses felony. This year, Secretary of State candidate Krebs, U.S. Senate candidate Rhoden, and their fellow 2013 naysayers all flipped and voted for a broader law than what the anti-cruelty activists wanted last year.

"Finding common ground was easier than we might have guessed," said state vet Oedekoven at the top of his testimony. That's a heartening statement. If we look past our stereotypes and assumptions and just talk to each other, we South Dakotans will find we all want a lot of the same practical policies.

We should celebrate the Senate's willingness to find common ground on this practical policy to protect our four-legged friends. We should be glad that our legislators will act to change our embarrassing position as the only state to punish animal abuse as a mere misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, we should also recognize the unpleasant subtext to the SB 46 story: regular folks have a tough time being heard in Pierre. Get some conscientious neighbors together to propose a good idea, and lobbyists and legislators will dismiss your proposal as a mere "constituent bill" (shouldn't every bill be a "constituent bill"?). They'll dismiss you as "greenies from out of state" (I predict Rep. Betty Olson will spoil unanimity in the House).

But hand the bill to state officials and big business, let them take the lead in promoting it, and suddenly, the Legislature thinks your idea is great. Our legislators are much more inclined to listen to the Daugaard administration and big industry lobbyists than to grassroots South Dakota activists.

* * *
The only opponent testimony came from Anita Lee of Hereford, SD, whose argument against SB 46 consisted mostly of her concern that making animal cruelty a felony would have serious consequences. A felony conviction, after all, takes away one's right to vote, hold office, and carry a gun. In my own vein of old-fashioned conservative advocacy personal responsibility, I would suggest that SB 46 is all about making people realize that evil actions should have hard consequences. If you don't want to lose various rights, maybe you shouldn't run dog fights or skin cats alive.

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